Special planning session to address future of Guild

How can the Buffalo Newspaper Guild improve unity, increase participation and maintain a healthy union – from leadership to financials?

Those are some of the questions members of the Executive Committee will tackle at a special planning session Nov. 2 at the Burchfield Penney Art Gallery.

We spend most of our time focused on bargaining and day-to-day problems that arise in the departments we represent. This session is a moment to look beyond those issues into the future of the local itself in light of the downsizing and uncertainty in the newspaper industry.

Despite the financial struggles here and across the country in newspapers, the Guild in Buffalo has done a much better job than most other Guild locals at maintaining wages and benefits, representing our members in the workplace, and trying to build unity.

We know that collective action can still make a positive difference in the workplace even in these highly negative times. But we’re smaller and the larger union movement nationwide is weaker.

To continue representing our members effectively, we need to develop new ideas and new leaders to strengthen the Guild and come up with solutions for our local’s most pressing current and future challenges.

This includes widening our perspective to consider potential changes to our umbrella union, The Newspaper Guild, which is also facing challenges because of the sharp drop in newspaper employment across the United States and the weakened state of many Guild locals.

We tried to make this a participatory process. Members of the Executive Committee were asked to identify the key issues facing the local. Much of the discussion during the day-long planning session will be based on those suggestions.

The idea is to meet in a comfortable atmosphere outside of The Buffalo News to get a good conversation going on the future of the Guild and some of the key issues the local faces, and to give everyone who attends a chance to contribute their ideas and opinions.

The session will also include Tammy Turnbull, the local’s staff representative, and Marian Needham, the TNG national staff representative in Buffalo. Both will help lead the program.

“Through the Guild, people get an opportunity to fight for wages and benefits, and for the quality of their jobs. Non-union employees don’t have that opportunity,” said Guild President Henry Davis. “But we can’t do this very well without a healthy union. The planning session is about taking steps now to ensure our local remains strong.”